Man Cave (How far we have come or haven’t)!
For the American renovation television series.
A man cave or manspace is a male retreat or sanctuary in the confines of one’s living environment, such as a specially equipped garage, spare bedroom, media room, den, or basement. The term “man cave” is a metaphor describing a room inside the house where “guys can do as they please” like a caveman, without fear of upsetting any female sensibility about house decor or design. Paula Aymer of Tufts University calls it the “last bastion of masculinity” (yeah!)
While a wife may have substantial authority over a whole house in terms of design and decoration, she generally has no say about what gets “mounted on the walls” of a man’s personal space. Since it may be accepted that a woman has input on the decoration of the rest of the house, a man cave or man space is in some sense a reaction to feminine domestic power.
Man caves have multiple purposes: they are a place to be alone, to be away from women and from female sensibilities, to indulge in hobbies, and to hang out with male friends. It is, loosely, a male-only space to retreat to watch sports matches, or play video games. According to psychiatrist and author Scott Haltzman, it is important for a man to have a place to call his own, referring to a male area to which to retreat. Rules are relaxed; it is a place where other people’s sensibilities about standards of cleanliness are not necessarily observed; as one man said, “You spill a beer there or leave a hamburger overnight, who cares?
In a sense, for married men, it is a way to recreate some of the space and freedom of their bachelor days since it was like a “pad” similar in feeling to a frat house game room or a college dorm room where people could come and go “as if they owned the place.” It is where a man doesn’t have to be on his best behavior, where no women are around, and where “no one is going to make you watch your p’s and q’s” and “no one is going to ask you to explain yourself”. Writer and handyman Sam Martin explained:
Men have had an identity problem since the women’s movement. They have tried to figure out who they’re supposed to be. For a while women wanted them to be more sensitive, so they were more sensitive. Then women wanted them to be more manly. One of the things I discovered is when men have their own manspace, what they put inside of it is really an expression of who they are. Manspace is about establishing an identity for a man. Our premise is that women have control of the look and the feel of the house and that left guys wanting more. Anybody who has a specific interest or hobby or work or collection is going to want a space to indulge that.
— Sam Martin, in the Chicago Tribune, 2007
According to several sources, the general architectural and design trend is for men to take traditionally male-only spaces, and enhance them with improvements and masculine aesthetic choices. Man caves can be equipped with accessories such as refrigerators, vending machines, putting greens, kegerators, giant TVs, musical instruments including gear such as microphone stands and amplifiers, pool tables, boxing rings, and entertainment centers. A man cave may also be fitted out with a bar and sports memorabilia such as trophies. In the book Where Men Hide which Publishers Weekly described as an affable but only “sometimes thought provoking” guide, author James Twitchell and photographer Ken Ross explore areas where men like to be alone. According to Twitchell, some public male-only spaces, such as the barbershop, are declining, while other spaces are taking their places, and the author tries to show the attractions of the “grimy garage”. The book suggests that “men make their own spaces for good or ill”, according to Publishers Weekly. Twitchell focused on communal man cave spaces such as male-only groups in megachurches, possibly a modern-day replacement for declining attendance at male-only clubs such as Masonic Lodges. Twitchell noted that some anthropologists have speculated that these spots are a place for men to bond before hunting or war, and where they can “smoke or fart” and tell the “same jokes over and over again.”
One man redecorated the space to look like a replica model of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from the TV show. Upscale sports-themed furnishings are also available to outfit a man cave. These rooms are also often decorated by the male, with little or no female influence. A big screen television is useful for watching sports games with buddies. Since it is an area set off from the rest of the house, it’s possible to make noise, or yell at the television, without fear of reprisals from a wife, girlfriend or mother.
Garages have typically been a man space since they’re often lit by “harsh fluorescent bulbs” and lack heat or air conditioning but nevertheless present a guy with an “opportunity to disappear for hours while never leaving the premises.” There are some reports suggesting that some men are likely to “lavish time, money and attention on fixing this spot up”. Places in houses which have been typically associated with male-oriented chores, such as garages, basements and sheds which have not been “particularly welcoming spaces” when shared with storage items and garbage, are being fixed up to be more suitable as full-time living spaces, with more thought to design and planning.
One man cave of a Gillette corporation executive has a desk, “a chess board that’s always set up, never used”. But sometimes there are limits; his wife has not yet agreed to let him smoke cigars in it.
Some ladies have set up “women-caves” for such things as crafts. Sometimes they are known as girl-caves.
In popular culture
In the book by Sam Martin, entitled Manspace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory, the author suggested there were several spots from pop culture that any people could relate to:
- Al Bundy‘s garage from the TV sitcom Married… with Children: Al Bundy‘s garage was his only sanctuary. It was also used to hold No Ma’am meetings.
- Jerry Seinfeld‘s apartment: One report suggested the Manhattan apartment of the character Jerry Seinfeld from the TV show represented “the epitome of a male hangout devoid of any female influence” since cereal boxes and mountain bikes suggested to viewers that “Guys rule.”
- Chandler & Joey’s apartment, in the TV show Friends
- Tim Taylor’s garage in the TV sitcom Home Improvement: Tim Taylor used to “bring to life all manner of high-powered monster machines.”
- Bada Bing room in the TV show The Sopranos: Tony’s gang would meet in a windowless “dingy office” at the Bada Bing strip club. It was a “guys-only place within a guys-only place.”
- Barney’s apartment. In the TV show How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson’s apartment is designed in such a way that women will not want to stay there very long.